Theatricum Botanicum will delight audiences this year with a very special production of Shakespeare’s classic ROMEO AND JULIET. The star-crossed lovers find themselves in Israel, with the Capulets, a prominent Israeli family, and the Montagues, a well-to-do Palestinian clan. The result is a timely, poignant tale of forbidden love and the awful consequences of hatred and revenge which can never be undone. Brilliantly staged as always, incorporating the beautiful and untamed gifts of Mother Nature with the skills of a talented production team, Theatricum Botanicum presents a memorable rendering of this classic tale. The story of two young lovers will always remain fresh, and the updating of Shakespeare’s original script adds an extra dimension to this classic tale. Dressing the characters in modern clothing, including some military garb, has kept costume designer Beth Glasner on her toes.
Who has not heard the story of Romeo, the son and heir of the Montague family, and his tragic love for the fair Juliet, the daughter and heiress of his family’s sworn enemies, the Capulet’s? Love-sick Romeo wants above all to announce his undying love for the charming Juliet, but their liaison must be confined to the shadows. Even after they marry in secret, things do not go well for them. When Romeo inadvertently kills a Capulet cousin, he is banished from his country. Meanwhile, Juliet’s father has decided that she will marry a suitor he has chosen. The couple is desperate and will do anything to stay together. Only tragedy can ensue.
The casting of the current ROMEO AND JULIET is brilliant. 16-year-old Juliet is actually played by 16-year-old Judy Durkin. She manages to exude the innocence, enthusiasm, and girlish charm of her age and imbues Juliet with a genuine teenager’s heady embrace of first love. As Romeo, Shaun Taylor-Corbett is an energetic youth enthralled by life’s possibilities and his burgeoning love. He portrays Romeo as an excited teenager who feels that he can move mountains; with a true belief in happy endings, he does not consider the consequences of his actions. This coupling is very likely what Shakespeare had in mind when he made the two teenagers fall in love at first sight. Even with the temperature hovering around 100° on the day this play was reviewed, Romeo bounded up and down buildings with a careless physicality which was impressive. In fact, the entire cast was at its energetic best, whether it be dancing or fighting. Besides, it was an inspiration to place these characters in modern-day Israel, where their conflicts left the Middle Ages and moved with fresh vitality to the modern day.
Skilled director Ellen Geer does a spot-on job of conveying this classic play with a freshness and genuineness that is very special. She has moved beyond the usual and into the realm of the vibrant and exciting. She understands the power of first love and leads her actors in a direction that is both charming and tragic. The entire cast sweeps the cobwebs from this Shakespearean classic and makes it exciting and understandable to the audience. Each talented cast member makes his particular role an important one; each actor conveys just the right message. This theater company grasps what Shakespeare is really about and does it with skill and unusual perception. ROMEO AND JULIET is a production which should not be missed.
ROMEO AND JULIET runs through October 2, 2016. Performances are on Saturdays and Sundays at 3:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. with one Friday (August 19) at 7:30 p.m. There is a pre-show discussion on Saturday, August 6, at 2:30 p.m. Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum is located at 1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga, CA 90290. Tickets range from $15 to $38.50. For information and reservations, call 310-455-3723 or visit Theatricum online.